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Nullum crimen abest, facinusque libidinis ex quo
Divitiæ molles.The virtuous ancients, by the light of nature and the evidence of experience, were taught that, when riches obtained a value and esteem beyond their proper use, merely for the sake of splendour, ostentation, and aristocratic oppression, a fatal blow was given to liberty. The human race, they thought, degenerated under the despotism of money. In such a corrupt system there was no encouragement given in the state to excel in virtue for its own sake : even generals and admirals went on expeditions, not even for false and vain glory, far less from motives of patriotism; but to fill their coffers with plunder, and render war a cloak for pillage.
Cauponantes bellum, non belligerentes. They made a trade, and a sordid trade, of legal bloodshed, not conducting it with the disinterested spirit of soldiers, animated with the love of their country, but with the cunning and avarice of Jew usurers in Duke's Place.
And have we had no instances of generals or admirals making war a trade in recent times, and in Christian nations ; using the sword, to which the idea of honour has been attached, as an implement of lucre, and rendering it far less honourable than the knife of the butcher, exercising his trade in the market of Leadenhall ? If it should ever be true, that ships of war are made merchantmen in the vilest
* Since Poverty, our guardian god, is gone,
Pride, laziness, and all luxurious arts,
DRYDEN. + Viz. The East Indies at present.
merchandise, the barter of human blood for gold, will it not prove, that the attaching honour to the possession of money, is destroying, not only the national virtue, but its honour and defence? Have towns in the East Indies never been given up to plunder, contrary to the law of nations as well as justice and humanity, to make the fortune of European officers ?
It is a noble and virtuous struggle, to stand up in defence of the rights of nature, true honour, liberty, and truth, against the overbearing dominion of pecuniary influence. Man will shine forth in his genuine lustre, when money can no longer gild the base metal of folly, knavery, pride, and cruelty. While the corrupt Ganges flows into the Thames, it will contaminate its waters, and infect the atmosphere of freedom. When British freeholders, yeomen, merchants, manufacturers, generals, admirals, and senators, become slaves to pelf only, forgetting or despising the very name of public virtue and disinterested exertion, nothing can oppose the spirit of despotism but the spirit of the people. That spirit, indeed, may at once rescue human nature from misery, and perpetuate the blessings of a pure and free constitution. But if ever a few worthless individuals should be permitted to domineer by the influence of their illgotten money, over free countries, to command majorities at elections, and drive all opposition before them, what chance of happiness could remain to virtuous independence? What, in such circumstances, could preserve liberty, but a convulsive struggle, attended, perhaps, with the horrors of the first French revolution, which God, in his mercy, avert |
On the natural Tendency of making Judges and Crown Lawyers, Peers; of translating Bishops and annexing Preferments to Bishoprics, in, what is called Commendam.
If there is any part of the constitution of England, in the praise of which eloquence may employ her most glowing colours, without entrenching upon the confines of truth, it is the judicial part of it. The purity of public justice in England is unequalled in any country which the sun illuminates in his diurnal progress. The reason is obvious. The verdict is given by juries of men usually beyond the reach of corruption. No ministerial influence can descend to all the individuals, in middle and humble life, who may be called upon to sit in judgment, and ultimately decide, as jurors, on the property, the fame, and the life, of their fellow-citizens. We have lately had a most glorious instance of the virtue of private citizens, exercising this most important office. The verdicts given in the state trials, in one thousand seven hundred and ninety-four, do more honour to the British character, than all the military exploits in the reign of George the Third. Such verdicts make our constitution truly enviable to the nations of Europe. Twelve honest men, on each of these trials, proved to the world, that no power, no authority, no terror, not even the factitious rage of aristocratical principles, which had been artfully fostered, could lead them to swerve from the right line of justice. They feared God, but not man; and posterity will honour them, when the names of subtle politicians, clothed with a brief but lucrative authority, if mentioned at all, shall be mentioned with detestation. It was well observed by a zealous and honest advocate on the occasion, that he could not despair of the case, when it was brought from the corrupt to the uncorrupt part of the constitution. The days of acquittal were the jubilees of truth, the triumphs of virtue; and, in a time of dejection, revived the hopes of patriotism and philanthropy. Official judges, not having the final determination of the cause, but feeling the check of the juries, commonly conduct themselves, even in state trials, with some degree of candour and moderation. Indeed, we are so happy as to see men appointed to this office, in our time, whose tried integrity gives reason to believe, that, if they were not thus wisely checked, they would, with few exceptions, preserve impartiality. Nevertheless, though much has been said on the independence of judges, yet it must be confessed, that there still remain temptations, which might have great influence on men less virtuous than our present judges are. It is observed, that peerages, in modern times, have been bestowed, with peculiar bounty, on lawyers, and that puisne judges have frequently been made chiefs; and some have ventured to say, that the expectation of these splendid rewards may frustrate all endeavours to secure, especially in state trials, perfect independence. It is not enough that judges do not fear removal from their dignified office. Their hopes may influence, more than their fears. They may look forward to increased opulence, an extensive patronage, the dignity of family distinction, and hereditary seats in the legislature. If themselves have seen too much of the vanity and folly of worldly pomp to admire it, (which, however, is not often the case with men who may be great lawyers, without any philosophy or religion,) yet they may have sons, wives, daughters, relatives, and friends, to whom the splendour of life, (as they have, possibly, little solid merit,) is valuable in the highest degree. Promotion is therefore, for the most part, a very powerful allurement, I will not say, to disguise the truth or pervert the law, but obsequiously to seek ministerial favour. - When peerages are lavished on lawyers high in place, and judges advanced, they are circumstances viewed with some degree of jealousy by those who are willing to guard constitutional liberty with unwinking vigilance. Perhaps it might afford satisfaction to such men, if judges were by law excluded from all higher elevation; if they were indeed most amply paid and most respectfully revered; but, for the sake of preventing the possibility of a wrong bias, where the happiness of the people is most intimately concerned, were prevented from viewing a brilliant dazzling coronet, suspended as their reward, over the scales of justice. - o But here an objector will urge, with serious solicitude, that, as the house of lords is a court of judicature, in the last resort, a court of appeal from every court in the kingdom, it is necessary that it should be well supplied with lawyers of eminence. On this subject Paley says; “There appears to be nothing in the constitution of the house of lords; in the education, habits, character, or professions of the members who compose it; in the mode of their appointment, or the right by which they succeed to their places in it, that should qualify them for their arduous office; except, perhaps, that the elevation of their rank and fortune affords a security against the offer and influence of small bribes. Officers of the army and navy, courtiers, ecclesiastics; young men who have just attained the age of twenty-one,